Charles Cleveland Poole acquired a love of banjo music before he reached his teens learning to play on a gourd banjo that he made for himself. In the summer of 1925 Poole boldly decided to try to get an audition with a major record company in New York City. Frank Walker, the recording director for Columbia Records, decided to give Poole’s band, dubbed the North Carolina Ramblers, a chance to record. Poole's snappy singing style and his sharp 3-finger banjo picking along with the tight fiddle work of Rorer and Woodlieff's smooth guitar runs made the band's sound very distinctive and catchy. In the spring on 1931 Poole received a contract from a Hollywood studio to bring his band to California to play back-up in a movie. Poole suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 39. In his short career had won many new fans to rural traditional music. His colorful personality and antics made him a legend in his own time and that legend continues to this day.
Cindy Brooks Baucom
Promoter, Organizer & Special Contributor
For more than thirty years, Cindy has pursued her passion for Bluegrass Music as an award winning broadcaster, producer, promoter, singer, musician, writer, photographer and MC. Her national radio show, “Knee-Deep In Bluegrass”, went into syndication in 2003 with distribution by the John Boy & Billy Radio Network. Now heard weekly in nearly a hundred radio markets, Cindy uses her knowledge of the music and enthusiasm to entertain and educate the listeners of her show. Cindy was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Bluegrass Music Association for two terms and serves as chair of the IBMA Membership Committee. She was producer of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 IBMA Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. Cindy has been involved with MerleFest since its beginning in 1988 and started serving as MC in 1990. Her MC work has taken her to a variety of stages and venues over the years.
Four-time Grammy Award winner David Holt is a musician, storyteller, historian, television host and entertainer, dedicated to performing and preserving traditional American music and stories. Holt plays ten acoustic instruments and has released numerous award winning recordings of traditional mountain music and southern folktales. In 2002, Doc Watson and David won two Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Folk Recording for “Legacy”, a three CD collection of songs and stories reflecting Doc Watson’s inspiring life story. In 1975, Holt founded and directed the Appalachian Music Program at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina, the only program of its kind in . The songs and tales Holt has collected for the past twenty years have become a part of the permanent collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The U.S. State Department has sponsored Holt’s performances in many parts of the world as a musical ambassador, taking the sounds of American folk music to such diverse lands as Nepal, Thailand, South America and Africa.
George Hamilton IV
Nationally Known Artist
George Hamilton IV entered the University of North Carolina as a freshman in 1955 then transferred to American University in Washington, DC a year later in order to combine his studies with regular appearances on the Jimmy Dean TV show. In 1956 he recorded, "A Rose And A Baby Ruth", got a national release and became a top five hit and a million seller. In late 1959 he took the brave step of turning his back on the music which had made him a star by moving to Nashville where he made a conscious effort to achieve his ambition in the field of country music. Chet Atkins got him signed to RCA and was instrumental in having George invited to join The Grand Ole Opry, where he has been a member since 1960. He earned his familiar title of "International Ambassador of Country Music" when he became the first American country singer to perform in The Soviet Union and Prague. George IV was given the ROPE (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) award for Entertainer of The Year in Nashville on 8th October 2009.
DeWitt “Snuffy” Jenkins
DeWitt “Snuffy” Jenkins started entertaining at age five doing a clog dance for a sawmill group. He started playing a fiddle, but could not use the bow, so he plucked it like a mandolin. He could play almost any acoustic instrument, but switched early from guitar to banjo because the strings hurt his fingers. He played strictly by ear and never read music. He had seen pickers like Smith Hammett and Rex Brooks experimenting with using three fingers to try to play a more melodic rhythm. He tried it and mastered it quickly. He was the first known banjoist to play that style on the radio in 1934 on WBT in Charlotte on the Crazy Water Crystals barn dance. Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs and Don Reno all cited him as a major influence on their careers.
The Chuck Wagon Gang
The Chuck Wagon Gang holds the distinction of being the oldest recording mixed gospel group still performing with ties to the original founding. the Chuck Wagon Gang's contract and master recordings were purchased by Columbia Records, now Sony Music. Their association with Columbia Records lasted thirty-nine years, during which time they recorded 408 known masters. At one time, the Chuck Wagon Gang was the second highest selling artist on the label. The Gang's popularity was greatly enhanced by radio play. The Chuck Wagon Gang remained essentially a family group through the years. Each edition has remained a close-harmony quartet, and contributed to the onward success of the Chuck Wagon Gang. Through the years many awards and accolades have been bestowed upon the group.
Robert “Tut” Taylor
Master Musician & Tradition Bearer
Robert “Tut” Taylor who is known as “Tut Taylor the flat picking Dobro man”. He came from a musical family. Tut began playing mandolin when he was twelve. He later acquired a six string National-Dobro lap steel and started playing it with a flat pick. Then he heard the sound of the Dobro being played by Brother Oswald. He found one and learned to play it with his flat pick. In 1970 he moved his family to Nashville. Along with George Gruhn and Randy Wood they opened GTR, a music store and repair shop. Tut is a songwriter, a vintage instruement collector and dealer, a craftsman, an instrument designer, an album producer, an artisit, a sign painter, an author and a Grammy winner. Tut has received many awards including one from the Governor of Tennessee in 1976 for “Tennessee Ambassador of Goodwill”. He has been a friend, mentor and personal booster to many young and upcoming musicians.
William “Oliver” Swofford
William Oliver Swofford known professionally as Oliver, was an American pop singer. Born in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, he began singing as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1960s. His clean-cut good looks and soaring baritone voice were the perfect vehicle for the up-tempo single entitled "Good Morning Starshine" from the pop musical "Hair", which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later. Later that fall, a softer, ballad single entitled "Jean", bested his previous effort by one, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart.